Breastfeeding is a topic full of thoughts and emotions for pregnant women. Some women may tear up with joy when dreaming of their future sweetness. Others may feel fear when thinking about how it might hurt or not work out. Or some feel anxious when considering the logistics of getting it all figured out. Whether you are the mom that is committed to breastfeeding the first year or you are the mom that is just willing to give it a try, you should prepare for some of the challenges that can come in the first month of breastfeeding. If you don’t, you may find yourself wanting to give up before you really get started and then find you feel sad and disappointed with your experience later down the line.
And that is exactly what we don’t want to happen! So today, as a mom that has breastfed for a total of 6 years, I wanted to offer you my 10 best tips for helping mothers of every circumstance survive the first month of breastfeeding and beyond. Because I promise you, with help and support, there is a high chance you can succeed. And love it!
10 Tips to Conquer the first Month of Breastfeeding
1. Prepare for the First Month to be Rough
This is probably the most important piece of advice because if you are not mentally prepared for the challenges that come when learning the new craft of breastfeeding, which is exactly what it is, you may get discouraged too soon! So here’s what you need to know.
In the beginning, you will likely be exhausted. Your nipples will probably hurt. You may be engorged or not producing much milk. It may feel like you are breastfeeding all of the time. You may start panicking your baby is crying because they are hungry (instead of realizing they might just be crying because you are still learning their cues!). You name it, and it *could* happen. Or it may go really well!
But regardless, letting the challenges that come with the first month of breastfeeding influence your decision for the entire year (or timeframe you aim to breastfeed) is silly. My nipples hurt the worst with my third son during his first two weeks of life after having already breastfed two other children with no pain. I knew the pain was my body readjusting and getting him to learn to latch well. So don’t panic. Things get easier! Really.
2. Set a Timeframe
I think any woman interested in trying to breastfeed should commit to sticking with it a certain amount of time and not quitting until they reach their goal. I recommend sticking with it at least three months before you say your challenges cannot be overcome. Many, many, many factors come together to create a positive breastfeeding experience. And until you have given them each due time to regulate, you may be quitting well before you have hit the sweet spot.
3. Create a Support Network
It is crucial to surround yourself with a support system in the beginning. Befriend other moms that are breastfeeding for camaraderie. Connect with a certified lactation consultant for help. Join La Leche League for encouragement and ideas. Join Facebook breastfeeding groups for instant answers to questions! You need to have a place where you can ask questions and talk to others in your shoes. You may speak to one person that has no helpful suggestions for your issue and another person that knows exactly what you need to get better. So remember, connect, and get support! It is key.
4. Eat and Drink…A LOT
No, I’m not talking about boozing it up. But I AM suggesting you guzzle as much water as possible and keep up your calorie intake because you can’t produce milk or have the energy you need without some calories in your system. Simple but profound! And many women overlook the power of water. So don’t. Guzzle guzzle guzzle!
5. Understand Supply Variance
You need to know your supply will naturally ebb and flow. A period will make many women’s supply drop. Stress, sleep, and calories can also affect supply. While very few women cannot actually produce enough milk to breastfeed a baby, many women quit because they fear they aren’t producing enough, but they actually are. And if your supply is low, look into other factors that may be causing it to drop. And begin researching what you can do to boost it! Keep reading for advice below.
6. Study up on Ways to Boost Supply
There are many ways to boost your supply. These include eating certain foods like oatmeal, taking certain natural supplements like Fenugreek, taking prescription medicine from your doctor, or pumping after feedings (on both sides), which naturally tells your body to produce more milk. The trick with any of these methods is to do your research and try various things! Different things work for different mothers. I would recommend starting with the most popular ways to boost supply and then going from there! For a list of specific one-handed lactation snacks to increase supply, read HERE.
7. Ditch the pacifier (at the start)
For babies struggling with latching or eating well, I would recommend ditching the pacifier or the first month when trying to establish a good latch. The best thing for them to suck on is you. It boosts supply, fattens them up, and helps them figure it out. Now, if they are naturally a great eater and you are producing like crazy, this may be unnecessary. But for those struggling to eat well, sucking can tire them out and leave them less than motivated to eat from you. This can make nursing take forever! And leave you feeling burnt out.
8. Find What Clothing and Scenario Makes You Feel Most Comfortable Nursing
While no women should feel embarrassed to nurse their baby and feed them, different women are comfortable with different things. Some women do not feel comfortable nursing in public, and some do. Some people want to use a cover, and some do not. While I do feel comfortable nursing in public, I do not feel comfortable without using a cover (and a larger one at that). Some women love nursing tanks or products like UnderCover Mama’s nursing tees that attach to any bra to make you feel covered no matter what you are wearing. But most importantly, find what works for you because a tense mama has trouble letting down their milk, so relax and enjoy it!
9. Pump at the Start
Whether your supply is strong or not so strong, I highly recommend moms start pumping within the first month of breastfeeding. The beginning of breastfeeding is when your body is likely to be producing the most milk, and when you can easily build up a base of frozen milk. That way, if things get challenging later when you go back to work (or need to go out of town), you have a stress-free stockpile at your disposal! And if your supply is low, it is the best way to build it up. I watched my sister go from producing less than an ounce to four ounces just from pumping after feedings!
10. Do Not Fear Pumping At Work
If you have to go back to work within the first month of breastfeeding, prepare to pump at work now. Many women are made to feel guilty or rushed for pumping at work, or they let the stress of pumping deter them from continuing to breastfeed once they return to work! Do not fall into this category! The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, includes a Fair Labor Standards section, which requires an employer to provide reasonable time for a breastfeeding mother to express breast milk for her child for the first year of their life in a place other than a bathroom. This law is implemented in 49 states and the District of Columbia. So most likely, your pumping rights are protected. Click HERE for more details.
Cheers to making breastfeeding work for you!